Anyone who knows me is well aware that my favorite sub-genre is the Mid-90’s Thug Lament. I have always appreciated the songs fabricated through the outpouring of grief towards a “Homie” who’s life has been prematurely cut short due to gang violence. This sub-genre has been appreciated by the masses for years but never looked at from an ethnomusicological perspective. Together these songs act as a study in grief and how it was dealt with by the budding gangster rap community. By analyzing these songs we can better understand hip hop culture and, in turn, better understand ourselves.
Master P – I Really Miss My Homies
Master P cuts into me with the sublime and guttural “Uuuuuuugh.” This groan was most famously used in his seminal work “Make ‘Em Say Ugh,”**. In “I really Miss My Homies” Master P has masterfully reworked the timbre of the grunt and made it into something akin to the moan of the rare Vancouver Marmot (or Marmota vancouverensis) who has just lost it’s young to a predators attack. Evocative and strong, Master P has shown his mastery of the Thug Lament with a single grunt.
**There has been much debate as to the origins of his famed cry. Some believe that is a moan made by his rivals overwhelmed by envy at the notice of his chrome plated heavy assault tank while others believe it is derivative of the sound of Master P’s own grunts upon climax.
Lesson: Guttural noises are a legitimate form of personal expression.
B.I.G. – Miss U
In Miss U we hear the, all to common, allusion to the tearful thug. “I’m a thug but I swear for 3 days I cried.” This is a common statement in the Thug Lament, but remains a rather large admission on the part of the bereaved thug. Thug life is built upon bravado and creating the illusion of unbridled masculinity. What these men are saying is: “I am willing to diminish my stature within the thug hierarchy to express remorse for a fallen comrade.” You might remember in Master P’s “I Really Miss My Homies” you heard the line “I ain’t gon even lie some nights I cried and cried.” Being a thug and openly weeping seems diametrically opposed even to urban music’s most casual listeners, but we learn through this music that they are not mutually exclusive.
Lesson: It’s okay to cry when your best friend gets murdered.
Tupac – Life Goes On
This song is not only a splendid lament but also a living will of sorts. Tupac gives strict instructions about how his funeral is to be orchestrated (we can only hope that his requests were carried out.) He makes it clear that his funeral is to double as a concert, in which every rapper he knew would perform. He also requested that his funeral be open casket and that prostitutes, that were previously under his employ, kiss the entirety of his corpse. “Let the hoes that I used to know, from way befoe, kiss me from my head to my toe.” This request raises the following issues:
1: Street walkers are hard to round up in large numbers, they are skittish and tend to avoid formal gatherings.
2: After the aforementioned whores are gathered you must convince them to put their mouths to a bullet riddled corpse.
3: With dozens of sluts kissing Tupac’s cadaver you are bound to have at least one vomit in the casket due to drugs and alcohol or the smell of formaldehyde and decomposing flesh.
4: Once the hoes are finished kissing Tupac “from head to toe” you will then be releasing a gaggle of sex workers into a crowd of emotionally vulnerable thugs (This never ends well, believe me.)
Lesson: Prostitutes attending your funeral, or the funeral of a loved one, should be limited to 8-10.